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Spy drones

Florida plans to use drones for 'mosquito control'

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: spy drones, mosquito control, Florida

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(NaturalNews) A Florida state government agency is planning to implement a unique and seemingly innocuous way to violate the privacy of some residents: deploy a spy drone and call it a "mosquito control" effort.

According to a local report, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District is planning to begin implementing the "innovative" new initiative soon. The measure is being sold as a means of "killing the persistent pests" more efficiently. And, you know, if authorities happen to catch other activities on camera too, well, whatever.

From Keysnet:

Typically used for law enforcement, the district is floating the idea of using an "unmanned autonomous vehicle" -- a drone -- to help spot shallow-water pools where mosquitoes breed up and down the Keys.

District Director Michael Doyle said he's invited several government agencies to a scheduled test flight for the UAV at its Marathon office on 107th Street at 10 a.m. Aug. 26.

'Very much designed for law enforcement'

The UAV in question is small - only about 2.2 pounds and 2.5 feet in length. Doyle says the craft will resemble a hawk in flight, and will use infrared cameras to spot shallow pools of water, thus allowing "the district to more quickly treat those areas with larvicide," the website reported. In all, the cost of the craft will be around $80,000, and that includes a "comprehensive insurance policy."

The Condor Aerial website says the battery-powered UAVs it sells and which the district is considering can fly for about 90 minutes between charges. They can operate in winds up to 40 miles per hour and hover at heights of 10-150 feet.

"It's very much designed for law enforcement when you watch the video, but it has a short-wave infrared camera we may be able to use to detect shallow water. It may or may not; that's what we have to find out," said Doyle.

More from Keysnet:

The idea for the unmanned drone came out of the district's staff-driven sustainability summit in March. The two-day summit was to give staff and invited members of the public a chance to brainstorm ways the district could operate smoother.

"We've got about five or six different projects we're doing to find out where water is quickly to save us time treating with the larvicide," Doyle said, adding those include water sensors and cameras on offshore islands, where millions of mosquitoes breed.

"If we can find the water, we can kill the mosquitoes. The real challenge is finding the water quickly enough," said Doyle.

The district plans several test flights later in the month. Doyle said officials will know within a week whether the drone in question will function as hoped.

About that spying thing...

Keysnet reported that Fred Culbertson, Condor's chief executive officer, said his company's drones have been used mainly for law enforcement and search-and-rescue purposes. But, he says, more civilian uses are cropping up all the time.

"There are hundreds of these deployed across the globe, mainly for search-and-rescue operations," he said. "Everybody has a different reason to use aerial technology, but it hasn't been affordable until drones came on the scene. Over the course of time, these are easier to deploy and you don't have all the costs that go along with a full-size aircraft."

Privacy advocates are increasingly concerned that dual-use drones will ultimately be used mostly for one purpose - warrantless surveillance. And they are moving to ensure that the Federal Aviation Administration, which is crafting rules for drones in the United States, ensure that they not be used to unlawfully spy on Americans. With recent revelations that the National Security Administration has been spying on Americans' electronic communications for years, concern that drones could be similarly misused are valid.





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